Changing times, the need for change, creative crashing. June seems to have flown by, so a bit late with this one! Here’s some different things I’ve been thinking a lot about this past month. Maybe there’s something here to interest you too?
BLACK LIVES MATTER, ABORIGINAL LIVES MATTER
Towards the end of May, the United States erupted in riots over the lack of an official response to yet another black life taken at the hands of police.
Many protests followed around the world through June, including here in Australia, where systems of white supremacy are no less culpable. We all have a lot of work to do if we are to achieve equity and justice for all.
Here are some organisations doing the gruelling work of trying to redress some of the imbalances in our country by assisting First Nations people. I have donated to these and would like you to consider doing the same if you are able:
- SEED – Australia’s first Indigenous youth climate network – https://www.seedmob.org.au/donate
- Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT – https://www.alsnswact.org.au/
- The FreeHer fundraising campaign by Debbie Kilroy on behalf of Sisters Inside Inc – https://au.gofundme.com/f/bfvnvt-freethepeople
There are many other organisations that need support, so I encourage you to do some googling! Whether it’s through a donation or other means, we can all do our bit by amplifying the voices and work of our First Nations people.
ZOOM, SKYPE, TEAMS, OH MY!
I’ve been on a fair few video conferences this past month. I have mixed feelings about them, like everyone; they’re both a godsend and a frustrating, tiring burden. If pushed to run writers’ rooms over video conferencing, I’ve noticed the difference in quality depends a whole lot on who’s actually in the room and whether everyone is at a similar level of proficiency and confidence. Trying to get a word in versus coming across as a dominating arse is a tricky balance, and audio dropouts are an expected workplace hazard. I feel for newbies caught in this new world order. The experience is very much the same as a physical writers’ room, but also lacking in the ways you’d ordinarily bond with your team. There’s no coffee order chit-chat, no decompressing or after-room drink, no break time small talk where you actually get to know the people you’re working with. It’s all very dive straight in and ‘be creative!’ On the plus side, run well, video conferenced rooms can be incredibly focussed and productive, and some stuff is exactly the same – you need your lead to drive the room, keeping everyone on track and focussed. Otherwise, it all devolves in navel-gazing nothingness. Which, frankly, even if you’re getting paid to be there, is downright depressing. I hope the world gets back to normal soon, not so much to end video conferencing, but rather keep to those times where it really is the better choice, rather than the only one.
I’ve been a bit obsessed with the German series Dark on Netflix. I’m late to the party – it’s recently launched it’s third (and I assume, final) season. A few eps into that and I’m flustered I have actual work to do and can’t just flop on the couch and slam through to the finish. If you don’t know it, it starts as a fairly gritty crime drama about a string of missing children and quickly swings on its axis to become a multi-generational, time travel saga set in a small German town built around a nuclear power plant. I have avoided time travel narratives in the past (for some reason, they always seem to really piss me off) but this one has me completely hooked. Like most time travel stories, Dark explores the concept of fate – fated relationships, fated choices, the circular nature of family and life. It loops over and over on itself in sometimes incredibly confusing ways, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I hold grave fears for how the series will actually end up. It has set-up a staggeringly complex world where the stakes are the existence of the world (two worlds in fact), where everyone and everything is at the mercy of time itself, so how they’ll pull off a satisfying wrap-up is anyone’s guess. So I’m very, very much looking forward to what happens next!
MY EMERGING CRASH TEST PHILOSOPHY
Speaking of being at the mercy of time, time and our ability within the context of that time is ever at the forefront of my waking brain. This month saw a massive first for me – I managed to draft a full synopsis for a feature film. I’ve tried and failed before, but I’ve gone about it in all the wrong ways in the past and ended up disheartened and annoyed. But this time round, I didn’t let all those frustrating voices get the better of me. I tried to keep my perfectionist tendencies out of the room as I set about with a clear goal and did my best not to overthink it all. And it worked! I have no idea if the synopsis will translate into a good script, but I’m willing to give it a red hot go, using the same approach – don’t get caught up in the little things, focus on the bigger picture and crash on through…
There’s something to be said for crashing through – getting past the need to be perfect and to feel right and comfortable, and just getting on with it.
I recently rediscovered a little crash test dummy action figure I picked up years ago from a friend’s garage sale. I assumed he was a piece of cool merch from some TV show and as he seemed too cute to end up in the bin, he’s been living on a shelf in my bedroom ever since, pretty much forgotten. But I moved him over to sit on top of my monitor a couple of weeks back. That’s his home now. And looking at him perched there got me thinking. From a creative standpoint, writers and artists of all types are basically crash test dummies. Or at least, we should be.
Every project is a grand experiment, a creative prototype that needs to be refined and pored over as you try and work out if it’ll actually hold up in the world. You build this thing with love and passion, then at some point, you need to throw yourself into that untested prototype, with all its flaws and weaknesses, and with all the verve you can muster, you drive that thing, fast and furious, headlong into the hard, unwieldy wall of Other People’s Opinion to see if it will actually survive the collision. While you desperately hope that your thing is strong enough to withstand the hit, crashing through in one impressive piece, careening past everyone’s tough, judgemental exterior to reach that soft, squishy place of love, or at least acceptance, the reality is you can only ever really expect to ram hard up into that wall and splinter into a blur of broken pieces, leaving not so much as a single faint scratch to indicate you were ever even there. You are left lying winded on the floor alongside your flimsy, smashed-up thing, wondering how it all went so horribly wrong. It’s even worse when that wall isn’t even other people’s opinion, but your own.
Many of us drive into the wall once, or even a handful of times, and decide this terrible, seemingly one-sided practice is no experiment at all, but a cruel, rigged system with only one outcome – heartbreaking defeat and embarrassing failure. They plaster up their broken bones and walk away from creative practise, never to return. Can you blame them? That wall sucks. And it hurts.
But for those of us hellbent on destruction, we need to take a more overarching view. Driving head-first into a solid wall is never not going to hurt. But if we want to get past that wall, and with no other way around it, we need to keep trying to crash through. Enter the humble crash test dummy.
Crash test dummies are built for one thing, and one thing only – crashing. Without complaint and without fanfare, they strap themselves in to yet another prototype and they make a run for that wall. No matter how many times they crash and break and end up a mess of broken and disjointed limbs, they clamp themselves back together and prepare for the next test. They may get a little busted up over time, but that’s what gaffa tape’s for. And who’d trust a pristine, unbroken dummy anyway?
Crash test dummies understand their place – they don’t see themselves as anything else. Failure is their game and their purpose. They don’t harbour ill will, they don’t view their struggles or their failures as anything special or sad or embarrassing. They just keep getting up to find another prototype to strap into and keep on crashing. They aim high, they go fast and they crash hard. And they don’t feel the hit because they understand that that’s the price of testing. It’s not personal, it’s the way it is.
So what am I saying here?
In essence, you have to be a dummy if you stand any chance of making an impression.
You have to be willing to run through the whole crash testing procedure over and over and over again – building your prototype, strapping yourself in, driving headfirst into the brick wall of judgement – if you want to have any chance of one day crashing through.
Yes, over time, just like an actual crash test dummy, you’ll get a little battered, and metaphorical gaffa tape can be hard to find on occasion. But like a crash test dummy, you can’t take it personally. Failure is not the result, it’s a step in the right direction. In fact, crashing is kind of fun.
Which is why that little crash test dummy action figure has now become my mascot. If I had some sort of crest or seal, I’ve decided he should be on it. I want to be like a crash test dummy. I want to remind myself that I need to keep going, keep testing, keep crashing. And that’s fun. Have you ever watched any of those incredibly graphic slow motion films of crash test dummies flying through windscreens and splatting against walls and metal and each other? Mesmerising. So that’s my new philosophy – or the start of it at least. Now, where did I put that roll of gaffa?